What Are The Most Critical Skills For Success At Work In 21st Century?

If you’ve ever wondered what are the most critical skills for success, this article is for you.

We live in a world of accelerating change. New industries are still being born and old ones are becoming obsolete. Many of the jobs that primary school students will be doing in the future do not yet exist.

The labour force, human capital and our knowledge base are all developing rapidly. Combined with the effects of progressive technological automation on employees, this leaves a key question to be answered: what skills will be needed for future generations?

In today’s world there are two main trends that are challenging and at the same time offer many opportunities for the education system.

First, the world is increasingly moving from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy. Secondly, young generations brought up in the Internet have different expectations and motivations for learning.

These two forces are pushing us to rethink and change our methods and education system. The gap between what they teach and test even our best schools and the necessary skills students need to function effectively and efficiently in the world of the 21st century is very important.

Internet generations have different needs

In today’s digital age, the ‘Internet generation’ is more accustomed to meeting needs immediately. It actively uses the network to make friends and make contacts, find answers, find the information and data they need, develop through its network of interests, learn and express oneself.

Ubiquitous and comprehensive access to the Internet and new technologies has a decisive influence on the way of thinking and acting of the present generation.

The Internet is their natural environment. However, the school system still remains firmly rooted in the nineteenth and twentieth century paradigms and methods of education.

It does not fit in with the world of the 21st century, in which the youngest generations function. In schools we still teach how to remember much more often than to think, and in the 21st century simple remembrance will not lead us too far.

In this article I identify seven skills needed to cope with the future. These are the skills and attitudes that young people absolutely need to reach their full potential.

Today’s students need to master seven skills in order to develop in the new world of work. They must become productive citizens who contribute to solving some of the most critical problems we face in the 21st century.

What Are The Most Critical Skills For Success

1. Problem solving and critical thinking

We spend a lot of time learning how to answer questions that we often don’t learn to ask. The essence of critical thinking is the ability to ask the right questions. Before you can solve a problem, you need to be able to critically analyze and ask a good question to answer what causes it. Therefore, critical thinking and problem solving are interlinked.

Today’s workforce is organised in a completely different way than it was a few years ago. We see a variety of interdisciplinary teams working on specific, very complex issues, as opposed to individual and repetitive work based on known and standard procedures.

Your manager does not have and does not know all the answers and solutions. You as an employee must think and find them. Employers are looking for employees who can solve problems and think for themselves, not people who need to be told step by step what to do.

Competitive pressure and rapidly changing market conditions make it a challenge to constantly search for innovation – to do things that have not yet been done.

This forces us to rethink our current solutions, to innovate, to invent and to propose something completely new that will add value.

Today, companies are looking for people who will meet new challenges. They require employees to become experts who think about how to improve products, processes and services on an ongoing basis.

Innovations require creative genius – critical thinking and problem solving. This set of skills builds the foundation for progress and development. We need to be able to question and challenge the status quo before we can innovate and propose an alternative and better solution.

Critical thinking requires active minds and skills:

  • Choice and decision making
  • Seeing the connection between different things
  • Identifying questions
  • Clarifying and clarifying something that is unclear
  • Analysis of data and information
  • Synthesizing, combining many different elements into one entity or moving from detail to generalisation
  • Comparison and contrast
  • Reasoning
  • Conclusion (induction) – reasoning from detail to general

Problem-solving includes:

Identifying problems, finding solutions, answering questions and asking questions.
Investigation, research, brainstorming, evaluation and explanation.
Drawing conclusions, making decisions and solving problems.

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2. Cooperation in different groups and leadership through influence

One of the main trends in the labour market is the increase in the number of temporary employees and so-called “freelancers” who carry out specific orders and projects.

Many people give up their jobs and choose to decide when, where and for whom they work. Companies are also more and more willing to use this type of employees.

They employ them for a definite period of time to carry out specific projects. Thanks to this, they can use a wide range of competences and optimise and reduce labour costs.

Technology has enabled work and collaboration across geographical boundaries. Multinational corporations and organizations work together in various offices around the world.

But working with technology, often remotely, with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds is something our young people need to be prepared for. Not only should we learn to use digital tools for communication, but we should also support tolerance (1), promote intercultural understanding, diversity and mutual respect.

Group work is essential. Students need the opportunity to work together, reason, give each other feedback.

In these contexts, team leadership is no longer about top-down authority, but rather about influencing, convincing, consensus-seeking and influencing. Schools do not teach how to be a leader, even though this competence is one of the most desirable by employers.

Cooperation includes:

  • Delegation of roles, teamwork
  • Synthesizing different, often different points of view, searching for compromise and reaching group consensus.
  • Teaching others, negotiating, listening, communicating and building a cooperative and collaborative community (working groups).

Leadership includes:

  • Leading, teaching, guiding others.
  • Use problem-solving skills to positively influence others.
  • Facilitating, setting goals (short and long term).
  • Working together to achieve goals.
  • Creating a friendly, respectful environment.
  • Acting ethically.

3. Agility and adaptability to new conditions

We live in the world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty , Complexity, Ambiguity). That is why it is important to be able to adapt and, if necessary, be able to redefine one’s strategy and way of acting.

Traditionally, our approach to education and work has been designed to perform routine and regular procedures. We learned how to do something once and then we did it over and over again. Learning meant getting used to it, getting used to it and doing the same thing with more agility all the time.

In the post-industrial era, the impact of technology means that we need to be agile and adaptable to dynamic situations, numerous changes and the often unpredictable effects of different disturbances.

It is very likely that the work that many people do now will change or may not exist at all in the future, e.g. due to automation or AI-based solutions.

We should allow people to find their own way, take risks and look for an alternative path. Not only is the end result important, but also the process of reaching the goal.

Nowadays, in order to succeed, get a job and get a career right, we need to: learn how to learn; learn to unlearn what we have learned; and learn to learn anew.

Think flexibly, adapt to new conditions and use a range of tools to solve problems.

Agility and adaptability require:

  • Thinking outside the box
  • Being flexible
  • Being opened and ready to accept and make changes.

4. Initiative and entrepreneurship

Do we teach our youth leadership? Do we encourage them to take the initiative? Do we empower them to solve global problems?

Even in corporate environments, business leaders strive to find employees who consistently “seek new opportunities, ideas and strategies to improve and improve.

The initiative brings with it commitment and purposeful action. An entrepreneur is a person who organizes, acts and takes the risk of implementing a specific business venture. This also applies to students.

Initiative and entrepreneurship require from people :

  • Setting the right goals that are ambitious and demanding
  • Being flexible and willing to take risks.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to develop their own skills, broaden their knowledge and capabilities.
  • Working towards expertise, being an expert in what you do and being productive.
  • Seeking and obtaining help when needed.

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5. Effective communication

Although communication through technology is simpler than in the past, employers say that many young people have difficulty communicating.

They lack verbal skills, correct writing and presentation skills. They have difficulties with clarity and conciseness of speech. They lack the ability to concentrate and focus attention. Ability to communicate their thoughts, conclusions and points of view in an effective and understandable way.

Effective communication is not only a matter of proper use of language and grammar. In many ways, the ability to communicate clearly is an extension of clear thinking.

Can you present your argument convincingly? Can you inspire others with passion and commitment? Can you concisely capture the most important elements of what you want to say? Do you know how to promote yourself, a product or a service?

Entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson once said, “Communication is the most important skill every leader should have.” Effective communication opens the door to many opportunities. It’s a learning ability, but schools often don’t.

In the recruitment process, apart from education and experience, the ability to “formulate one’s own thoughts” is one of the important criteria deciding about employment.

Effective and effective communication includes:

  • Concreteness and clarity of expression in all forms of communication.
  • The ability to define the purpose of communication. What one wants to convey to the recipients of the message.
  • Good thinking about what you are trying to communicate and being prepared.
  • The ability to express oneself – “speaking with one’s own voice”.
  • Convincing when appropriate and necessary.
  • Ability to use appropriate and understandable vocabulary – without slang, incomprehensible industry-specific abbreviations
  • Ability to articulate ideas and think.
  • Ability to communicate one on one, but not only “on-line” with the help of e-mails, SMS
  • Presentation, translation and publication of content
  • Creating messages and messages
  • Effective use of media and accessible forms of communication

6. Evaluation and analysis of information

We live in the information age. There is so much information available in the 21st century that the amount of data alone can be overwhelming. It is therefore very important that people know how to access and analyse information specific to their needs.

While our access to information has increased dramatically (2), there are also many distortions, noises and disinformation. As we move through the digital world, very few have been taught how to assess the source, reliability and value of the information they access.

In the age of many false messages, an active and informed citizen will have to be able to assess the truthfulness of the information that will come in from many different sources.

In addition, information is constantly evolving and changing as we update our knowledge base faster than ever before. Facts that are relevant today may become completely outdated and irrelevant tomorrow. It is important to be up to date and to be able to select them.

The ability to assess and analyze information includes:

  • Effective and efficient access to information
  • Critical evaluation of information
  • Effective use of information
  • Understanding of legal and ethical issues. Such as the processing of personal data, respect for copyright, etc.

7. Curiosity about the world and imagination

Curiosity is a powerful driver of new knowledge and innovation. The ability to nurture the “child’s curiosity about the world” and delight in everything can foster innovation and the creation of new and better solutions.

It takes a powerful imagination to create breakthroughs in the mind and then implement them. That’s why Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Intelligence is not enough. People who have learned to ask good questions can also be curious. They are the ones who move forward the fastest, because they are able to solve the most difficult problems in such a way that it is always important for many people and creates innovation.

We consistently provide students with dry facts and information instead of encouraging them to ask questions and seek answers. Curiosity and unconventional thinking should be treated with the same importance as the school system gives to science as mathematics or physics.

Curiosity is the desire to explore, discover and learn.

Imagination is the ability to deal with reality creatively.

  • Non-standard thinking, outside the schemes, generating ideas, proposing various possibilities, variations and options.
  • Discovering new ways, paths, methods, objects
  • Being original, developing and communicating new ideas.
  • Designing, building, constructing, constructing, inventing, improving.
  • Taking reasonable risks.
  • Unconventional and independent thinking can contribute to success.


There is a clear contrast between these seven survival skills in the future and today’s education goal. Instead of teaching people to answer questions, we should teach them to ask questions. Instead of preparing them for study, we should prepare them for life.

In addition to educating and creating better workers, we must strive to create better leaders and innovators. This will not only radically change the future of education and the labour market, but will also change the world in which we live.

It is worth taking these trends into account in order to better prepare for the upcoming future and the changes that await us on the labour market in the coming years. It is already worth looking at our competences today and seeing if they will be included in the price in five or ten years’ time. Develop, learn and improve.

Thank you for reading this article about what are the most critical skills for success and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here